ST PETER —
Her advocacy for prisoners’ rights dates back to 1969 and her involvement in the campaign to free the Soledad Brothers, which led to her own arrest and imprisonment.
In 1970, she was placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List on false charges, and was the subject of an intense police search that drove her underground and culminated in one of the most famous trials in recent U.S. history. During her 16-month incarceration, a massive international “Free Angela Davis” campaign was organized, leading to her acquittal in 1972.
The Soledad Brothers were three young black men falsely accused of killing a prison guard. One of the men was killed in prison in California, which sparked the famous Attica prison takeover in New York. At a later trial, the other two men were acquitted.
“This was the moment we started talking about abolishing prisons as the form of government punishment.”
She noted that there were 200,000 people in prison at that time, but there are 2.5 million in prison now.
She said that like the financial profitability of the military industrial complex, the prison industry spurs huge profits for a broad category of private firms that operate and service the prison system.
Davis is a Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of California-Santa Cruz, where she previously taught in the history of consciousness and feminist studies departments.
Gustavus senior and conference co-chair Jasmine Porter said the conference focused on the “voiceless” prison population — “people that many would not be willing to fight for because of the stigma.
“People think we are fighting on behalf of murderers, serial killers and rapists. But mass incarceration is incarcerating people for nonviolent offenses, and some are locked away for things that people even here on campus are doing,” Porter said.